“Failure to Launch” and How to Help

Hi everyone! In case you missed my talk at Henry Carter Hull Library in Clinton last Thursday, check out this article: http://theweek.com/articles/774849/who-lives-home.

I was intrigued to see Connecticut as the number two state with the highest percentage of young adults still living at home. I see challenges that come with young adults living at home with their parents so often in my work, especially parents struggling with how to help, and young adults struggling to move forward. Here are some of the top reasons that I see that young adults can’t “get out of the basement”:

  1. The high cost of housing and education (e.g. never ending student loans) plays a contributing role as stated in the article. How is a young adult supposed to pay rent and bills with an introductory level job, while owing thousands of dollars towards their education? In addition, lack of employment opportunities is leaving millennials feeling a sense of hopelessness after taking out loans for an education that they will be paying off for years, paired with feeling unable to obtain a job that they were promised in school.
  2. Often times, young adults who have experienced a sequence of perceived failures in various areas of their life (education, vocational training, employment and/or relationships) are more likely to be unable to move out of the basement. Discouraging experiences can trigger thoughts of failure, and whether the sense of failure is objectively accurate or not, these thoughts and feelings of failure, without balancing experiences with mastery and success, can lead to loss of self-confidence, discouragement, and even depression, leaving the young adult unmotivated and expecting failure. Anticipation of failure decreases the likelihood of taking a risk to try, and furthermore to persist in continuing to try again.
  3. Finally, a untreated mental health problem can be a large reasonthat a young adult may feel unable or unwilling to “leave the nest.” For example, leaving home and living on his/her owncan be extremely scary for a young adult with anxiety, depression, ADHD or someone who has experienced trauma.

One thing I have observed in my work is that the goal “get my kid out of the basement” or “move out of mom’s house” often feels too big. It is hard to tackle something that feels so huge and in the mind of an overwhelmed young adult, it can feel absolutely impossible.  I specialize in helping young adults who are feeling stuck, and their parents who are feeling defeated and unsure, shift gears from not knowing where to begin to taking small but actionable and achievable steps that will help them meet their goals.

In order to begin shifting gears, you can start by considering a shift in perspective.

  • If you are a young adult struggling to launch, is it possible that this isn’t a personal limitation, but rather your response to your circumstances and not knowing where to begin? Perhaps some skills and strategies would help you feel more empowered, and you can reframe this challenge as an obstacle you can overcome.
  • If you are a parent, perhaps your young adult that is struggling and still living at home is not really “failing to launch” but rather is responding in the best way they know how, right now, to the difficulties of growing up, and he/she would benefit from support finding his/her way through this period of time. 

Alissa Goldberg, LMSW supports young adults and parents through issues with “failure to launch”, and specializes in working with individuals in late adolescence through their twenties.

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